The branches of the trees outside the window behind the piano have assembled themselves in the wind to look like a begging dog, all wobbly and shaking while jumping up and down for a treat. Then just as quickly as if I said, “No, Fannie, not now,” they are still.
When I take my glasses off they become just tree branches filled with leaves. And I wonder then, “How is it that I see better without glasses?”
True, they are Readers but I realize, maybe the eyes of my imagination see better through eyes that are not perfect, when ordinary reality around me is more forgiving—edges blurred and tones softened, making the room, maybe not abstract, but a tinge surreal—as if the Great Artist intentionally created a dreamlike state for me to step into this morning, a place where I don’t have to be perfect.
If there is a struggle I still get stuck in, it’s that—I don’t even like saying the word—perfectionism. What if I simply realized, decided, accepted that my novel doesn’t have to be perfect and just get on with it? I can hear my writing coach, Laurie, in my head, “Yes!”
What if a shadow of the good things to come is enough and doesn’t have to be the very image of the thing?
No matter how diligently I try to keep good order—around me, within me, on the pages—it is all beyond my control. The words of an editor ring in my head, “Have you edited it to the very best of your ability?” Yes, beyond the best, I’ve edited it to the worst of my ability. Either I bury it or grant it some wings, poor thing.
Aside from a few Olympic stars, does anyone find perfection in any area of their life? And for writers, isn’t that why there are editors? I’m amazed by the acknowledgement pages I read at the back of novels of how many people it took to write the book. But what if you aren’t connected to those people?
Will we be buried in the shadows of our stacks? No, not me! I want to be cremated anyway.
If I think I will write the perfect book I may as well surrender the pages—the manuscript with its history of more lives than a cat. I’ve lost count.
Today, I prefer to blur the lines, see the jumping dog.
I am going to see things through the lense of my old friend, Ima Gina. She always had a special way about her. In the old days, she could turn a wheat field into a mansion, with its sky-high ceiling and magnificent view.
To someone else, it may have been just a bunch of tall stalks in a field pressed to the earth, that created squares and rectangles connected by hallways leading from room to room for us to move through. Unless you had a birds-eye view, you wouldn’t even have noticed it.
Ima Gina had an uncanny way of knowing who I was and what I desired, who I wanted to be but had not yet become. We lost connection a couple decades ago. I told her to go. Not in so may words exactly, but she got the message.
Ima was a clever girl though, even though I ignored her, she kept popping by my office to say, hello. She even showed up to show me how budgets could tell a story and the number crunching part of my job at the time became enjoyable.
It was Ima Gina who told me it was time to write stories, the stories behind the numbers. I can blame her for this incessant need I have to put words on paper.
It’s funny, all these years I’ve known her, I forgot she actually had three names, like me—Deborah Wenzler Farris. Each name tells a story so all three names need to be there. If I leave one out, something important goes missing. Like hers.
This morning she stopped by, walked right in through the screen door, let it slam like it does because the spring broke yesterday, and then she reminded me.
“You have forgotten my last name!” she yelled standing there like she owned the place, hands on hips.
“Do you want some coffee?” I asked.
“Just be you!” She said glaring at me. “Yes, I’ll have some coffee, extra hot, cream, you know the color. I like my coffee caramel colored in case you forgot.” I hadn’t.
Her words stopped me. My husband said the same words to me this past week. Just be you, sweetheart, he said after I admitted to him I had written a comment on a new Writer’s Group I’d been invited to join, with many published authors in my age group. I was excited.
I wanted to make a good impression and proceeded to delete my comment and rewrite it three times. When you just edit it, it says you’ve edited it, and you know, I have to be perfect. “Do you think they noticed…?” I asked him. “Go with it,” he said. “Be you,” he repeated. I don’t remember what words he used to describe me then and that’s probably a good thing.
So where does this leave me? I invited Ima Gina Tion, with all three of her names, back into my life and kicked Perfectionism out.
Ima always has good words to share, she always has had, I don’t know why I tried to move on without her. Good thing she’s so persistent. Over coffee, she told me this: “It’s not what we do or how well we do it, our worth isn’t found in what we create but in being God’s creation. Enjoy the process, it’s never about the performance. Or the product.”
Maybe you needed to hear ImaGinaTion’s words today, too. After I give Fannie a treat or two, I’ll be back at work on my novel this afternoon. How about you…? Todd’s out of town, I’m not even going to look at the clock.
With tremendous gratitude to artist, Jr Korpa from Malaga, Spain for his exquisitely beautiful photos. (I’m sure Ima knows him.) I found him on Unsplash but he’s also on Instagram @jrkorpa. Thank you, Jr!